When I was a child we would often go to Kings Bakery in Ripon on a Saturday to buy a plaited milk loaf – it was my favourite bread and I loved going to this bakery with its in-one-door, out-the-other door shop. The loaves were plaited beautifully, far better than I can ever achieve and tasted heavenly. A slice on its own was delicious enough but spread with good butter thick enough to see your teeth marks in, aah I can still remember the taste. Milk loaf is not as rich as brioche but is a step up from an ordinary white loaf and so whilst good for everyday still has a whisper of treat about it. As this loaf was cooling from the oven I did the school run, on our return my children and I went into the garden and ate slice after slice with butter in the dappled sun, proper Famous Five stuff.
Please don’t think it a faff to do, bread is super easy to make and so rewarding, the only consideration is time. If you want a loaf for lunch make it in the morning, want it for tea then make it right after lunch. Once you have made the dough there are two risings of about an hour each and then baking for around 30 minutes so you are looking at around a total of 3 hours. Panic not though, for most of that time the dough looks after itself whilst you do something else.
I love a good wholemeal loaf or chewy sourdough, they all have their place in my kitchen but I think the white loaf has fallen from fashion and been somewhat maligned, avoided. This is the loaf to bring it back into the fold, fabulous as is and it makes superb toast too. Have a go at making this, your family will love you for it and probably love making it with you too.
I have some 10 to 12 year old girls coming over on Saturday for a cooking class and I though this loaf the perfect place to start. What a treat to take home at the end of the morning and it gives us time to make plenty of other goodies during the rising times.
500g strong white bread flour
10g dried yeast
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon sugar
300ml milk plus a little extra
Warm the milk with the butter until just tepid and the butter melted. Put the flour, yeast salt and sugar into a large bowl or the bowl of a freestanding mixer. Add the milk, mix well and then knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth and springy. Dust the inside of the bowl with some flour, put the ball of dough back in, cover with a tea towel and leave somewhere warm for 1 hour or so when it should be doubled in size. Then knock the air out of it, knead briefly again and then divide into three and roll these three balls into sausages. Squidge one set of ends together and plait the loaf then squidge the other ends together. Put onto a baking tray which you have dusted with flour, cover again and leave for another hour. Before this second hour is up preheat your oven to 200. Brush with milk and then bake for 25-35 until golden and the loaf sounds hollow when you tap the bottom.